But how likely is it that you will ever experience this type of crime. According to the Federal Trade Commission, approximately 19 people per minute become victims of identity theft. That is approximately one every five seconds. That number only goes up during the holidays. In fact, in 2014 alone, over ONE BILLION records with personal information were leaked.
So how can you protect yourself? During my career as a police officer, I averaged approximately one ID Theft case a week. It never stopped amazing me that people do not know one of the simplest things they can do to protect their ID. It's called a credit freeze.
There are many systems in place to assist consumers. These include "flags" that can be placed on your personal information that will alert you if somebody opens a new account in your name. But realistically, that's about as helpful as your neighbor knocking on your door to let you know they watched somebody taking your car out of your driveway several hours earlier. It doesn't do you much good to get information after the fact.
But a credit freeze is different. A credit freeze "locks up" your personal information. It prevents new accounts from being opened in your name. In fact, even YOU will not be able to open new credit accounts without going through some hoops. But this extra work is what makes the credit freeze so effective.
Placing a credit freeze on your information is not a good idea if you are currently in the market for a new vehicle or home. It's also not a good idea if you like to take advantage of special offers to open a credit line at department stores in order to receive a discount. Why not? Remember when you used to open a credit line in about 5 minutes? With a credit freeze in place, that time is likely to extend to 5 days.
I can tell you from first hand experience, getting a mortgage or refinancing in place has a lot of paperwork. But if you have a credit freeze, you have just added additional time and effort to this event. But I have used this credit freeze tool for over a decade, and I can't imagine any reason good enough to not use it.
What if you want to get a loan or other line of credit? You simply contact the credit bureaus again, this time requesting a credit thaw. If your lender knows which credit bureau they use, you may only have to do this with one of them. The thaw costs another $10 and you set the amount of time you want it in place. I have personally found that two weeks is usually a good amount of time for complicated transactions such as with a home loan. Once this temporary thaw is over, your credit reverts to being frozen.
You will need this if you ever decide to unfreeze or thaw your credit.